How to celebrate and not add to the problems of the world
There is nothing wrong with any festivity or celebration we may include in our cultural landscape, and Halloween is one of them. This post is more aimed at people whose cultures include Halloween, or similar, and who have seasonal climates.
Halloween is based on an old Celtic /pagan tradition, the culture from ancient and pre-Christian Europe. It celebrates the end of the light and the coming of the dark and was once called Samhain. It is viewed as a mysterious and sacred moment when the division between the worlds of material and spirit are closer together. Put another way the veil which divides them is thinner, more transparent, and thus we may see more into each other’s worlds. In these hours we are more able to commune with the other side, to ask for support, gain insight and guidance for the coming winter. Its counterpart is Mayday which celebrates the coming of the light into later spring and summer. The 31st days of May and November are thus sacred and fully deserve celebrating. That celebration does not have to be traditional either. Dressing up is huge fun for families and friends alike.
SO. How does this fit in with mindfulness?
If we are truly mindful of how we live, we live without wasting the earth’s resources. SO can we create our celebrations and fancy dress without using plastics, without buying endless snippets that may have been produced in parts of the world where wage slavery is common, and using up precious resources for those who live there while we fritter away on our. Can we make our fun without waste of any sort, just by recycling and reusing, by collecting the bounty of autumn instead, using dried leaves, cones and acorns to dress up in? Can conkers substitute for plastic decorations?
Then we have all the sugar rush candies. They are a very unmindful choice. Pop corn, by contrast is good for you, so are fruit pieces, and they can be dipped into chocolate if preferred. Small cakes can be used made with egg, though the fat and sugar are not desirable. Be inventive, creative, and think mindful consumption is the key. Traditional feasting included all meats, fruits and vegetables available at that time.
Samhain is the time when there is no past or present, no this world or the other. It is a liminal time, in between all other times. It is a moment to just simply BE in the moment. It was also the point in the year when all crops should be harvested and brought in, a time of anxiety for enough food to survive for breeding stock and humans to get through the winter. It was a time of fires, and communal thanksgiving, of celebration of the year. there is anxiety as well as relief present in the living, and the dead, the other side are called upon to give support.
Since we include all forms of supernatural life/ death at halloween, the horror and the mystical, we could turn this into a diversity celebration, a collecting together of all spiritual cultures, of witchcraft and pagan rituals being celebrated open and honestly alongside mainstream religions. Let us all celebrate that of the magic in us all, the psychics, the intuitives and witchy types who were once vilified and whose skills, knowledge and celebrations were taken away from them through fear. Instead of denigrating them or turning them into pantomimes, let us embrace them all. Let us allow these skills to emerge in all people and become part of the whole human experience, as it almost certainly was once. Let us stand magic alongside science and say there is a little of each in the other, and be honest about it, finally.
It is also a celebration of ancestors, a feasting time and a time to celebrate fertility. There were sometimes human sacrifices too, going back a very long way, usually by burning. Old and sick people, leaders who were no longer able to lead even perhaps, were burned alive. This is perpetuated through Guy Fawkes celebrations which come a few days later in the UK. Guy Fawkes is seen as a royal substitute because he attempted to blow up our parliament with our sitting King in it at the time.
Food is left out for the spirits of those who have died in the previous twelve months, so they may also join in with the feasting.
There are so many ways we can use this celebration of the change from light to darkness in the year in positive ways. We might want to create environmentally sensitive celebrations, maybe have a feast of some sort made from locally grown foods, enjoy some ethically controlled fire-based social gatherings for local communities and generally prepare for a personal mini-retreat to explore ways in which we can all grow and change into the future and be prepared for the coming spring a few months ahead. For me it is a seed-selecting time, planning what food to grow next year, what can be sown now for an early start, celebrating the season by walking through stands of trees, forests if you can do that, and enjoying the colours of autumn. We don’t need to produce endless plastic skulls and bats — we can see the real things if we are lucky enough to live in an area with night darkness and enough insects to sustain their populations. And we don’t need to overload ourselves our children and our bodies with substances that do us harm. I am really not a killjoy. I believe happiness should be deeper than fleeting gimics and sugar highs. Samhain could be that purpose, that celebration, that closing of the season.